by SOPHIA SAKELLARIOU, Staff Writer
The Manhattan College Student Court is a branch of Student Government that’s intended to play a crucial role on campus. According to the school’s site, it serves to preside over cases referred to by the dean of students or her designee involving parking tickets, residence hall write-ups and any other disciplinary incidents or complaints.
Senior Anthony DePinho is tired of the way things have been done in the past, and is looking to make some changes in his newly appointed leadership role as Chief Justice.
“The way things are right now with the Student Court is that it’s meant to be a body that students can come and appeal cases to the Court of any kind, but the reality right now is that we pretty much are only looking at parking ticket appeals that students receive from Public Safety,” DePinho said.
Parking tickets or any other traffic violation tickets received on campus are administered by MC’s Public Safety, not the NYPD. If a student feels they don’t deserve the ticket they were given, they go through an appeal process with Student Court and may try to appeal their ticket.
It has also been customary that the Public Safety office sends a representative to the Court’s meetings since their knowledge on parking regulations and passes serves useful when reviewing appeals. In the past this representative has been a supervisor, but this year, office personnel began to be a part of the process. The court is looking to strengthen the communication between the Public Safety office and Student Court.
This is one of the many changes DePinho has begun to implement, including the process of applying to be on the court.
“The way it worked previously was that current members of the court would come up with a list of names of people that they would nominate and the list was brought to Student Government assembly and voted on,” DePinho said. “It became kind of insular. People were pulling in other people that they knew or just contacting only people that they would know so it was very closed and not very open to the campus at all. So this year, when I stepped into the role of I wanted to make the process for adding new justices something more transparent and open,” DePinho said.
There are ten positions on the court— one Chief Justice, six Associate Justices, one clerk, and two Sergeant at Arms. The Chief Justice oversees everything involving the Court and the Associate Justices are the other voting members along with the Chief. The clerk is responsible for taking notes during an appeal and to write down the final decision that is sent to Public Safety. The Sergeant at Arms essentially keep order in the courtroom and usher students in and out of the room.
In order to achieve his goal of making the process of getting on the Court more transparent, DePinho advertised the Court at MC’s Club Fair and at Student Government meetings at the beginning of the semester. An online application was also sent out for about a week through the MC Announcements. Students who filled out this online application where then interviewed by DePinho and Student Body President Jaycie Cooper. After candidates were interviewed, a final list of candidates was brought to the assembly and approved.
“We had about eight or ten really strong applicants and I was really blown away, but we could only take four, so it was a really tough decision. The students who came through that process were really great and showed a lot of interest in this goal. Some of them had done some really great work who were transfers and had worked in previous student governments and they brought in all these ideas and all this energy so we’re trying to channel that and I think if we continue to do that the court will continue to grow stronger,” DePinho said.
Freshman Liola Moody, a political science and international studies double major, went through the process and is now a Sergeant of Arms on the Court.
“I heard about the Court through a Student Government meeting and there was an email sent out a few times with information about it. I was surprised that we had anything like this on campus,” Moody said. “The idea of being apart of something where you’re actually helping people or being apart of something more really interested me. If someone is having a problem with an RA they can come to us and we can give those people a voice who don’t know they have this option to have a voice and I like how I can be a part of that process,” she said.
Along with making improvements to the application process, DePinho hopes to change the role of the Court as well. At the moment the Court is predominantly a traffic court, and he hopes to expand the jurisdiction of the types of cases that the Court oversees.
“If you go on the college website or if you go into the Constitution of the Student Government, any student who feels that a fellow student has violated the Student Code of Conduct can submit a complaint in writing to the Student Court. This is all in the Constitution, I’ve never done any of this. I’ve been on the court for four years and we’ve basically only ever looked at parking tickets so this is a right that students have that they don’t know about,” DePinho said.
“I think there’s enough of an interest within the student court and I think if people knew that they had this option I feel like we could do a lot more,” DePinho said.
In order to promote this expansion, the Court is trying to talk to some administrators on campus to see how they can go about expanding the types of cases they look at.
“I actually contacted the Dean of Students and spoke to him about these kind of issues and concerns that we have and ways that we’d like to see the court develop so we’ll see what happens with that. We’ve also talked about an information session and flyering or sending out information about what students are capable of with this court,” said DePinho.
The Court would also like to set up an official channel, such as a Google form that would provide students with a more direct line to the Court. Their main goal is to become more of a presence on campus and to let students know that they are here to help.
DePinho said, “I go to Student Government assembly meetings and we’ll talk about the Student Court there and some people still don’t like fully understand what we do even within the student government. If fellow members of Student Government don’t know what we do, how is the rest of the student body going to? It’s like if Congress didn’t know what the Supreme Court was up to. We are the third branch of the Student Government. There’s the executive branch, which is Jaycie and her executive board, then there’s the assembly which is the legislative body and the Senate, and then there’s us, but we have just been this under the rug kind of group that meets periodically and doesn’t have a clearly defined purpose,” he said.
“I want students to know that the Court is not as intimidating as it sounds. It’s other students there listening to you and understanding the exact same scenario you are in versus an adult who may not be as easy to relate to,” Moody said.
The court usually hears between five and ten cases per meeting in Kelly 4.09. The times of these meeting vary in order to make them more accessible and to accommodate commuters who are most often the recipients of the traffic tickets the court appeals.
As far as the information sessions and flyering the Court plans to pursue, students can look forward to seeing such happenings next semester.
DePinho said, “We’re really hopeful that we can make some changes, we’ve got a core group of really dedicated students that want to see these things happen and want to give other students a chance so we’re excited for where this could potentially go. There’s obviously a lot of work to do between now and then, but we’ll see how it goes.”